The other day I was conducting a workshop with a consulting firm about how to win a pitch. A consultant raised his hand and asked “How do we win if we have to go up against IBM?”
While this was a great consulting firm, they didn’t have a brand as well-established as IBM. As a result, they had lost business to IBM and other better-branded rivals.
Indeed, many firms in many businesses face what I call the “the IBM problem.” They run up against the old saying that “no one was ever fired for hiring IBM.” In other words, if you have to decide between two closely matched potential business partners, most will go with the more established brand because it’s easier to justify your decision up the corporate heirarchy.
But that doesn’t mean that the lesser brand will always lose. The established brand wins when everything else is equal. But that doesn’t mean that everything else needs to be equal.
You Beat the Superior Brand With Execution
You beat IBM by executing the fundamentals of the pitch better than your competition.
Fundamental # 1. Focus your pitch on solving the prospect’s business problem. Estblished brands can get complacent and rely on the power of their brand, discussing their past successes rather than how they plan to solve the prospect’s specific business problem. If you detail a specific plan to help your prospect and the branded rival doesn’t, then you move to the top of the stack.
Fundamental #2. Make sure that your message is simple. If you speak in a way that is easy for people to understand, that distinguishes you from the competition. Your branded rival may not have as simple a message.
Fundamental # 3. Leave plenty of time for Q&A. How you answer questions allows your prospect to probe your intellect. They see who you are and forget about the branding issue.
Fundamental #4. Speak with energy. A brand is a static idea that is fixed in the mind of the prospect. If you come across as exciting to work with, you can easily surpass the superior brand. On the other hand, if you speak in a flat monotone and your rival does too, then they will go with the brand.
Fundamental #5. Rehearse like crazy. If you come in well-rehearsed, then you will demonstrate your intense interest in winning the business. The established brand might not come off as well.
The reason that IBM has established a great brand is that they have performed at a consistently high level for many years. But that doesn’t mean that in a given pitch, you can’t outperform them. If you execute these fundamentals, you can beat IBM.